By Pastor Tim Phillips
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise ones from the East came asking: “Where is the child?” --Matthew 2.1-2
What happens when the world comes knocking on your door searching for the promise of a child?
I have always loved the Epiphany story in Matthew 2. These days, it doesn’t get the kind of play Christmas does. But in many cultures, January 6 is a day of big celebrations, gift-giving, and hoping for that revelation of light that will brighten all the nations of the Earth. If the Epiphany story gets overshadowed by Christmas angels and cuddly animals and cute babies, it may have something to do with the challenge the story presents. There is political intrigue and the murder of children and a desperate escape of the Holy Family into foreign territory as refugees. There is very little that is redeemable about a story in which political oppression and fear get turned on children and families.
The truth is, the Epiphany story hits very close to home. Wise ones are appearing from all over the world. They are searching for some kind of promise for their children. Like those ancient ones, they too are asking for directions and help. But unlike those older Wise Ones, they aren’t just passing through. They live here. They are refugees and immigrants looking to find home “another way” —the kind of home where children are safe and possibilities are real and hope is alive.
The Epiphany story is unfolding right now in our neighborhoods and we have the opportunity to help write another version. In our story, Wise Ones appear from the East and West and from all over the world and they ask for help to find some promise for their children. We can play King Herod and act out our fear in policies that lead to death. Or we can welcome, support, celebrate and receive from them the many gifts they and their children have to offer.
Thanks to Peach Jack, we have been introduced to the Seattle World School just a few blocks from the church. One of Seattle Public Schools, the World School provides education and access to family services for children from around the world – some from countries torn apart by war or from refugee camps. Many of these folks are currently living in temporary housing or are homeless. Because Mary’s Place, with whom we have a long relationship, provides services for families in these situations, they are partners in this work as well.
So help us write a new version of the Epiphany story this year. In the lead up to Epiphany (Wednesday, January 6th), we are inviting your gifts of new or slightly used school supplies for the children and families of the World School. Greatly needed are backpacks, notebooks, pens and pencils. Students also appreciate healthy snacks, such as energy bars and portable non-perishable foods. Bins for collecting these items can be found in Fellowship Hall and in the church office. Our Christmas Eve offerings are already on their way to Mary’s Place and to the Friends of the World School for additional support.
This Epiphany let’s write another story. Herod doesn’t have to be the star of the show. A refugee child can be. After all, Jesus says later in Matthew, “Inasmuch as you have done it for one of the least of these, you have done for me.” What version of our Epiphany story do you think Jesus would want to tell?
This blog includes thoughts from various contributors at Seattle First Baptist